Le Rayon ‘U’ Édition Bibliophile

Le Rayon U cover

In 1943, in the pages of the Belgian weekly Bravo!, a certain Edgard Félix Pierre Jacobs embarked on a saga entitled Le Rayon “U”. It was intended to succeed the adventures of “Flash Gordon”, banned by German censorship.

The infamous Captain Dagon, a member of Australia’s secret service, infiltrates a mission to the Black Isles led by Norlandia and aims to get their hands on uradium, a mineral with prodigious properties. Soon, the expedition will experience extraordinary adventures…

The visual universe and the characters of the Le Rayon “U” announce the adventures of Blake and Mortimer, to which the author will give birth under the pseudonym of Edgar P. Jacobs, in 1946, with “The Secret of the Swordfish”.

Ray “U” contains all of Blake and Mortimer. He is the matrix. But this story of thwarted fate was somehow born twice, like Edgar P. Jacobs himself, first an opera singer before becoming a cartoonist. Published in 1943 in the Bravo! youth newspaper, this somewhat forgotten story was never published as an album until the early 1970s at Éditions du Lombard. Preserved by the E.P. Jacobs Foundation, all the graphic material of the second version of Rayon “U” was recently rediscovered. Plates, character and costume research, colour studies, handwritten notes, hand-made reassembly model… For the first time, the authentic parts of the Rayon “U” redesign by its author are brought together in a book.

  • Dargaud, March 24, 2023
  • ISBN 9782870973141
  • 237 x 310 mm (9″ x 12″), 96 pages, hardcover with dust jacket
  • 29,99€
  • Order online: Amazon, BDFugue
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As with all AE format material (Artist’s Editions, Artifact Editions, Gallery Editions, Art Editions, Studio Editions, etc), this is a collection of classic comic material and I’ll be reviewing the book and not the story. For a complete list of all current and announced editions, with review links, please visit our Index. Also, see What is an Artist’s Edition and our Artist Index.

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A hardcover presentation of what production materials are still left for Jacobs’ early solo work. Pencils, roughs, colour guides, painted pages, and finally the complete story. If you’re planning to pick this up for the story scanned from the original art, you’ll be disappointed: it was assembled by cutting up production black and white pages and rearranging them in this portrait format. It’s very interesting to go over and examine, but the real wealth in this volume is all the other material. This is the bibliophile edition and it shines as an historical look into the full production of this story.

All scans are clear and without issue. The art varies greatly, from rough layouts on tissue paper to inked art boards to coloured pages. So much variety. The main story pages have a lot of margin notes, added lettering, and additional art where the paste-up didn’t fill the panel.

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The design is well done, with an engaging layout that keeps the art as the focus and the accompanying text thoughtful and just where you need it. With so many of the artifacts in varying sizes, the layout takes on greater importance for flow and readability, and Ghielmetti accomplishes this with aplomb. The included print is an odd choice: a very rough page layout in pencil. They had fully inked pages that would have presented so much better.

Production is excellent: a sewn binding of a medium-weight paper with a slight coating. With the size and paper weight only the center pages stay open on their own, but at this size you’ll comfortably read it in hand. The dust jacket is superfluous, but that’s my general thought on all dust jackets. This is numbered release of 8000, mine being 5949. It’s stamped onto the colophon, which like most French books of this style is the last page.

I ordered this from Amazon France and it arrived remarkably unscathed, save for a few corner dings. Cinebook is bringing The U Ray to English in September 2023, if you want to get the published version.

As I get more and more books of this size I am begrudgingly accepting them as a wonderful midway point between price and presentation. This presents the material in a size that allows you to see most nuances of the art in an excellent package at a price that’s quite reasonable. Would I want this book as a full-size AE for 200 €: probably not.

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